International Ice Hockey Federation

Big Great Britain win

Big Great Britain win

Promoted team scores upset vs. top seed Slovenia

Published 22.04.2018 16:44 GMT+2 | Author Martin Merk
Big Great Britain win
David Phillips applauds the fans after Great Britain's 3-1 win against Slovenia. Photo: Laszlo Mudra
Great Britain came back to the second tier of ice hockey with a bang by opening the World Championship Division IA with a 3-1 win against top seed Slovenia.

The British ice hockey fans celebrated long after the game and they had good reason to do so. For the first time since 2012 Great Britain won a game in the Division I Group A. Coming fresh from the Division I Group B, they did so against top-seeded Slovenia, 3-1. A sensation if you will, even though the hard-working British player did of course not come to the Division I Group A just wanting to stay there. That was seen from the beginning.

“You come in to win, don’t you? We came in with a game plan, I thought we skated with them well all game, we controlled it, we played a great game. I think the special teams made the difference. Our penalty kill was really good today and we scored on our power plays,” said Robert Dowd, who scored the game-winning goal.

“Obviously we’re here for promotion. We didn’t just come in to survive but to get promoted to the next pool and we’re heading into the right direction.”

The game started well balanced in shots despite having the teams at the opposite ends of the seeding and it was underdog Great Britain, which went up first. At 6:50 Team GB capitalized on its first power play when Ben O’Connor scored through traffic in front of a screened Slovenian goalie Gasper Kroselj.

The Slovenes tried to react and had some chances and at 12:22 made it a tied game. Jan Urbas sent a pass to Blaz Gregorc, who beat Ben Bowns from between the face-off circles.

“Both teams started nervous. It was an up and down in the first period. After the second period we controlled the game, had a lot of chances but took a couple of unnecessary penalties. As we could see they were strong on the power play and scored two,” Rok Ticar summarized the game from the Slovenian side. “We had many chances to come back but they blocked a lot of shots and their goalie was really good today.”

“It was a smart plan [the British] followed today. Based on the scoring chances we had and the result it’s a big disappointment for us but that’s hockey, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose,” said Slovenia head coach Kari Savolainen. “We saw that we cannot sit in the penalty box and give them chances. That was the nutshell of the game.”

Slovenia played stronger in the second period but wasn’t dangerous enough. The wake-up call came with four minutes left as a British power play ended when a deflected shot from Dallas Ehrhardt was not brought under control. Dowd hit the puck in the air behind a beaten Kroselj to bring Great Britain back in front.

“The hardest thing was to wait the call that it was not a high stick. It was nice to score it,” Dowd said.

Great Britain is known for its physical, North American style of play and giving Slovenia a tough time wasn’t a big surprise considering their last encounters. At the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A the Slovenes narrowly beat Great Britain 3-2 on home ice in Ljubljana to start the tournament with a win en route to promotion. Two years earlier, also in Ljubljana, Slovenia needed overtime to beat the British 4-3. But for Team GB beating Slovenia remained a dream in recent years. The last time the British men’s national team beat Slovenia at an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship event was in 1999 in the B-Pool (now Division IA). Since then the teams had two ties followed by three wins for Slovenia.

“We tried to work hard on either end and control the puck. We have a good team, controlled the situations and adjusted. We got a little bit of luck. Sometimes if you work hard you have luck and we were strong in the special teams,” said GB head coach Peter Russell and is looking forward to the next game against Kazakhstan in two days. “We’re going to push the game as good as we can, entertain the people and enjoy the game.”

The Slovenes tried to push for another game-tying goal and outshot their opponent 18-3 in the third period but when Ales Kranjc was sent to the penalty box for interference, Brett Perlini scored on the power play to make it a two-goal lead at 4:50 and make the “Barmy Army”, its fans, celebrate wildly.

Slovenia had many shots but didn’t find a way to get the puck past Bowns, who had 34 saves to support his skaters, who also blocked many shots.

“The guys in front did a great job on rebounds, they didn’t get many second chances. We came together as a team, we buy in,” Bowns said.

After a break of one day, Great Britain will play another regular top-division team with Kazakhstan on Tuesday while Slovenia will play Poland tomorrow.

 

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